After posting a 16-2 record in the regular season, making an unblemished run through area play and eventually garnering a No. 1 ranking in the state, it’s safe to say that the Bulldogs have yet to disappoint.
According to head Coach Wesley Hatfield, the only thing left to do now is cap it all off with a state title.
“With an enormous senior class we knew this team had a chance to do something special, and so far they have,” said Hatfield, whose team’s only two losses came to AAAAAA powerhouse Lassiter and McCallie (Tenn.). “As far as we are concerned right now, it’s state championship or bust.”
Decatur got a taste of postseason success last spring when they won a pair of state playoff games and advanced to the state’s Final Four for the first time in Hatfield’s tenure, but ran into a senior-laden Pope team that topped them 11-6.
With a dozen seniors and what he described as his deepest roster yet, Hatfield doesn’t envision any matchup problems when the Bulldogs kick off the state playoffs this week.
“Last year we ran into a team that was clearly better than us and it showed, but that won’t be the case this year. We know that every game in front of us is winnable if we play our game.”
To his point Decatur, ranked No. 1 in Class A-AAAAA by LaxPower.com, is a perfect 11-0 against teams in their classification this season — including a 17-16 win over No. 2 ranked Northview March 19 and a 10-7 triumph over No. 3 ranked Westminster April 5.
Their success, he said, revolves around a wealth of experienced play-makers that line up on all lines of the field.
“Any team that plays against us will tell you that you have to respect every single player in our attack and midfield lines,” said Hatfield, pointing our senior midfielder Simeon Johnson and Nate Wilinski as two particularly crafty offensive threats. “We have a lot of different guys that can beat you with the ball and a number of high-caliber players on the defensive end too.”
Senior captains Branford Frison and Ben Rigger, three and four year starters respectively, highlight a Bulldog defense that is allowing just less than six goals per game this season.
“We have a great group of kids and a great chance to push deep into the playoffs,” said the Decatur coach.
The Bulldogs opened the state playoffs tonight with a home match against Kell. A win will move them into the second round where they will host the winner of Blessed Trinity and Whitefield Academy.